By: Annette I. Kahler

A year into David Kappos’s€™ term as Director of the USPTO, he and his team have unveiled a new five-year strategic plan aimed at reducing patent pendency and backlog, increasing quality, stabilizing the organization’€™s workforce, and transforming the Office into the nation’€™s “€œInnovation Agency”€ to serve as a model for IP offices around the world.

In recent years, USPTO operations and resources have been straining against a backlog of more than 1.2 million applications in the queue, with upwards of 700,000 waiting for action by an examiner.  Patent pendency is at 25 months for a first action, and 35 months for total pendency. The Office has announced targets to reduce first action pendency to 10 months, and total pendency to 20 months.

The new strategic plan is specifically directed toward achieving four goals: 1) Optimize patent quality and timeliness; 2) Optimize trademark quality and timeliness; 3) Provide domestic and global leadership to improve intellectual property policy, protection, and enforcement worldwide; and 4) Achieve organizational excellence.

The USPTO acknowledges that, to address the backlog and pendency issues and achieve its mission, the organization must overcome challenges concerning funding authority, rapidly advancing technologies, antiquated IT systems, and workforce issues related to the hiring, retention and training of examiners. External challenges are also noted, such as economic volatility, court decisions, pending legislation, and factors impacting international harmonization.

The plan emphasizes the USPTO’€™s role in spurring innovation and economic development. “€œTimely-prosecuted, high-quality patents and trademarks support innovation and promote creativity. Delay, uncertainty, poor quality, and costly litigation are obstacles to innovation and creativity.  A well-run USPTO is critical to our nation’s continued economic prosperity.”

Performance metrics in execution of the plan will be captured using a Balanced Scorecard model with data reported regularly to USPTO management. To aid in transparency of public reporting, the Office has also established a “Patents Dashboard” through a new online Data Visualization Center.  To view the Strategic Plan and the Patents Dashboard, visit the USPTO website at www.uspto.gov.